August 17, 2019

Love Letter from God: God’s Masterpiece Ephesians 2:1-10 and John 3:16

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

 

Ephesians 2:1-10 NLT

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

 

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

 

I have a lot of favorite passages in scripture. There are several in Ephesians, but this one is one that reminds us that our good works and efforts are not the catalyst for salvation, rather they are the output that comes from the input of God’s grace.

What we do is because God’s grace by the power of the Holy Spirit has transformed us from what we were, from the ways in which we lived selfishly to something new, a masterpiece that reflects all of who God is in us: each of us individually.

I read about the word “Masterpiece” this week. In the NIV, the translators used the word handiwork, and that is a more literal translation of the Greek, but I think the New Living Translation editors wanted to underscore the idea that everything God crafts intentionally becomes a masterpiece.

As one of the world's premier art museums and home to such famed cultural icons as "Mona Lisa," the Louvre in Paris ought to have nailed the answer to the simple question, "What is a masterpiece?"

But no. When the museum posed that query to a bunch of its curators a few years ago, they were stymied. It wasn't that they had no answer, but that they had too many. Superlative craftsmanship, extraordinary design, great antiquity, rich materials, purity of form, artistic genius, originality, influence on other artists. All those qualities, and more, bubbled into the discussion…

The term "masterpiece" originated in the Middle Ages, when apprentice artisans had to prove their skills by submitting exemplary work for approval by the guild that governed their trade -- carving, metalwork, enameling. If the piece demonstrated mastery of the craft, the apprentice would be promoted to master and authorized to train others.

Later the meaning evolved under the influence of connoisseurs, who might judge art on the distinctiveness of its design, or scholars who often concern themselves with the history and authenticity of a piece…

Long-recognized masterpieces by established talents are the bulk of the show, but even their reputations have had their ups and downs. Johannes Vermeer, the 17th-century Dutch painter whose light-filled portraits of daily life have inspired 20th-century novels and films ("Girl With the Pearl Earring"), was pretty much ignored until 1866, when a French scholar touted the works' profound humanism in an influential essay. Only about 35 Vermeer paintings survive, of which the Louvre has lent "The Astronomer" to the Minneapolis show.

"What I like about that picture is that it not only has the intimacy of Vermeer, but also embodies the scientific curiosity of the 17th century," said Michael Conforti, president of the Association of Art Museum Directors and director of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. He added that it was "amazing" that the Louvre would lend the painting, which is "universally considered to be a great masterpiece. In my opinion, one doesn't have to be educated into an appreciation of that object; it has universal appeal."

…And the general public sometimes embraces certain works as "masterpieces" based mostly on their celebrity and fame. As every Louvre visitor knows, Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" is the museum's primo masterpiece, a status the 1503 painting didn't acquire until after it was spectacularly stolen a century ago. Mona's well-armored case will prevent any such caper now, but it also keeps most people from seeing anything but the flash of their cameras against the glass…

"To me, a masterpiece is something that stands the test of time and is viewed as a masterpiece from generation to generation," Reedy said. "Secondly, it must influence generations of artists and change the way that people look at the medium -- be it painting, sculpture, decorative art or whatever. It must be so original that once you've seen it, you're indelibly influenced by its power, and any artist who goes in that direction is accused of studying under or being in the shadow of the original."

…The power of the masters inspires only admiration in Michael Kareken, a professor of painting and drawing at Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

"I'm really interested in traditional painting and art, so to me certain Vermeers or Rembrandts or Gericaults sum up what a masterpiece is," Kareken said. "They crystallize a whole set of artistic and cultural values and are technically brilliant above reproach…I believe in the transformative power of art; I do believe that. And those paintings that move you so much words fail you -- those are the masterpieces."

From the Star Tribune: http://www.startribune.com/what-makes-a-masterpiece/63790887/

God makes us masterpieces by transforming us. And God isn’t interested in making all of us into the same thing, but instead…God builds in us transformation that makes us stand out as beautifully unique and powerfully attractive to those around us: when you are able to move someone around you to the point that they are speechless – that is the wonder of being a masterpiece of God’s design.

 

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As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

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